Chapter 1

Glory, As Well as Hate

“Eat up! Dear lord, eat up, eat up! As those Italians would say, ‘bon appetite!’ Or was that the Frenchies…?”

Sheila looked sadly at her poor confused grandma and shook her head. “Oh, Grandma…I believe that was the French, since ‘bon appetite’ is a French word, but the Italians would eat a lot, so I’m sure they would squeeze someone’s cheek and say that.”

As Sheila and her grandma sat at the crooked dining room table and poked at the meat piled on their plates, something was happening that Grandma and Sheila were very unaware of.

“You know, Sheila, this is very fine meat. Shot only yesterday a very fine deer…alas, eat it! I mea—”

Grandma stopped suddenly midsentence and her hands shot up to her throat. She was choking. She gasped for air. “Help…me…” she managed to squeak out, but only just barely.

“Grandma, keep breathing! Keep talking! Fight for air! Fight for air! Ok, prepare yourself, Grandma…”

Sheila whacked her in the back and fresh deer shot out of Grandma’s mouth, as well as something red—blood.

“Oh…oh my!” Sheila exclaimed as Grandma started talking again.

“Grandma, I think something’s wrong with you. When I whacked you, blood came out. See? That red stuff is blood, Grandma.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’m fine,” the old woman whispered, patting Sheila’s arm gently. “I’m very su—”

She stopped midsentence again and once again choked. Sheila whacked her and blood came out—again.

“Ok, Grandma, we can’t let this go on. Come on, let’s get you to a hospital.”

“No! Sheila, I’m certain I’m fine!”

Just then, the front door with peeling white paint opened. Sheila’s mother, as well as her father with his raven-black briefcase, stepped inside with bundled jackets on.

“Hi, Mom! Hey, Dad!”

They didn’t reply. “Uhhh…Mom? Dad?”

All of a sudden, blood poured out of Sheila’s mother’s mouth onto the rug.

“Mom! What’s wrong with you?”

And then, as if on que, Sheila’s dad threw up blood onto the carpet as well.

“Guys, what’s going on?”

This was all a nightmare. Really, what was going on?

“We…are…sick…” her mom muttered.

“Really…sick…” her dad agreed, blood dribbling down his chin.

“Well…where’s the nearest hospital? Do you know?” Sheila demanded.

“No…hospitals…here…” her mom gasped. “Only…in…other…places…”

The poor French town they lived in had no hospitals or access to medicine.

“We…must…flee…Sheila…stay…here…and…fend…for…yourself…”

And with that, Sheila saw the last of her father and mother as they marched out the front door forever.

                                                      ***

“That was uncalled for,” Grandma whispered, twirling her white hair around one finger. “How could they just leave you?”

Sheila, turning pale from the shock, replied, “I…I don’t know. They’re sick. Truly sick. And so are you, Grandma.”

“Don’t worry, I’m not going with them—”

More blood spurted out of her mouth.

Sheila was sick of it. Her Grandma needed help. She grabbed her Grandma’s arm and pulled her to the phone. “I’m going to dial 911,” Sheila told her grandma simply.

“911, what is the emergency?” a voice immediately piped up.

“My grandma is coughing up blood every 30 seconds.”

“Ah—a sickness is spreading throughout Co`ulane. We will be right with you.”

Sheila hung up, her eyes wild with panic. “The person says ‘a sickness is spreading throughout Co`ulane. Does that mean it’s contagious?”

“Probably,” her confused grandma replied.

5 minutes later, sirens approached and parademics marched into their home. They carried Grandma away on a stretcher, to Grandma and Sheila’s dismay.

“Bye, Sheila! I’ll be RIGHT back!” Grandma called to Sheila, blowing her a kiss.

But she wasn’t going to be right back. The paramedics of course assumed Sheila had parents, so they were attempting to bring Grandma to the nearest hospital in another city, far away from Sheila. And according to Grandma’s condition, it looked like she would be in the hospital for a while.

Chapter 2

The Useless Drug

Sheila, alone in her apartment, didn’t know what to do at all. She took off her itchy navy blue ironed skirt and her buttoned white top and hopped in the shower. The warm water on her back relaxed her, and she thought she might spark up a few ideas while she was in there. But no lightbulbs came.

Should she go outside? No, she shouldn’t—the blood coughing sickness, whatever it was, was probably contagious. Wipe that off the list.

Just then Sheila heard a knock on the door. She ran to get it—hoping it some magical healer that came to wipe away all her worries. She opened the door, and it was a red-headed man in a uniform.

“May I help you?” Sheila asked politely.

“Yes,” the man said gruffly. “You…are…living…alone…yes?”

Sheila nodded her head.

“Well…that…is…not…allowed…” the man said. “You…must…live…with…at…least…one…adult.”

“I don’t have any relatives,” Sheila admitted.

“Family…friends?”

“No.”

“Well…then…come…with…me…young…woman.”

Sheila obiedently followed him out her white front door, and outside; where the uniformed man led her to a navy-blue and white truck. “Hop…in…the…back,” he ordered her.

Sheila settled down in one of the cold leather seats, while the uniformed man got in the driver’s seat. He drove for what seemed like hours, until finally, the truck came to a stop in front of a gray cobble-stone building that looked sort of sad.

“Get…out…now.”

Sheila got out and the man led her into the gray cobblestone building, unlocking the door with a single silver key with a heart keychain on the back.

They stepped into a narrow hallway with red brick walls, until they reached a carpeted staircase. They walked up this until they reached a huge dining room with a fancy chandelier in the middle. “Wrong one,” the man muttered under his breath. He led her down yet another narrow hallway and opened another door. This one was fairly small and the ceiling was very low, with very little light. There was a faint glow from the back of the room, though.

The room consisted of 10 beds, 5 on each wall, with a small glass window at the back. There were tiny 2-feet dressers between each bed to put candles on, and pajamas in the drawers.

“You…will…be…living…here,” the man told her. “This…is…an…orphanage. The…other…orphans…are…at…supper…right…now…but…will…be…here…in…less…than…a…minute.”

“B-b-but…what?” Sheila sputtered. “I’m not an orphan! You can’t do this! This is ridiculous! Please, hear me out! I—”

The man shut the door and left.

Sheila could not believe this new predicament. She sat down on one of the tiny metal beds, exhausted. Before she had a minute to close her eyes and think, the tiny door opened and 9 children came rushing in, talking amongst one another. They all looked so different—and to Sheila’s relief, they didn’t seem to be wearing uniforms of any sort. So there was no clothing rule here!

One girl caught Sheila’s eye. She had dark skin and dreadlocks that reached her butt, and bright blue eyes that reminded her of the relaxing calm ocean. She was wearing a frilly blue dress, with a peacock design on the top. The girl walked over to the bed directly next to the one Sheila was sitting on. She pulled what looked like her night-clothes out of the minatiure dresser and changed right in front of Sheila into them. Sheila noticed the other children were doing this too. Apparently they weren’t very self conscious.

Just when Sheila was about to clear her throat and say something, the dreadlocks girl noticed her. “Oh! Well, hello there,” the girl said. The girl’s voice was calm and rich. It reminded Sheila of cocoa-butter lotion.

“H-hi,” Sheila said nervously.

“Oh, no need to be nervous. I’m not mean.” The girl laughed. It sounded like a tinkling bell. “So what brings you here? Did you just get here today?”

“Uh…yeah. A uniformed officer brought me here from my home. My mom, dad, and grandma got some blood-coughing sickness and were taken away.”

“Oh! I’m so sorry…” the girl said. “Yeah, I’ve heard that some contagious sickness is taking over some town a few miles away. I hope it doesn’t reach ours.”

“Yeah, I hope so too…” Sheila said worriedly.

“Well, anyway, what’s your name?”

“Sheila Duke.”

She laughed. “Well, Sheila Duke, nice to meet you. I’m Lori.”

“N-nice to meet you too…hey…could I borrow…uh…some nightclothes?”

“Oh, the officer didn’t give you any? That’s weird. But, yeah, sure, go ahead! I have tons. Mostly just pajama pants and tank tops, if you don’t mind.”

“No, of course not!”

Sheila gratefully pulled out Lori’s drawer and grabbed a tank top and fuzzy blue pants that read: AEROPOSTALE.

Then, 2 girls that looked completely identical to each other walked over to Sheila and Lori.

They had blond hair, green eyes, and pink lucicous lips. Their long blond hair were pulled in identical side-ponytails.

“Hey there,” one of them said, one eye glinting.

“Uh, hi.”

“So you’re new here, huh? Parents dead? Plane crash, or what?”

“Uh, no, they’re sick and so went away in search of a hospital.”

“Well, probably dead by now, huh?” The girl glanced at her twin and winked. They laughed together.

Sheila did not laugh, however. She muttered, “I hope not.”

“Well, I’m Perry and that’s Iona. You are?” Perry jabbed a long, glittery pink fingernail at her nose.

“I’m Sheila…Sheila Duke.”

Iona snickered and Perry jabbed her in the ribs. “Well, anyway, nice meeting you…” Perry said sarcasticially.

“Ugh, Perry, will you please go away?” Lori came to Sheila’s rescue.

To Sheila, Lori muttered, “They love tormenting the new kids. Just stay clear of them and stick with me. You’ll be fine, I promise.”

Lori added, “When I was new here, like a bug in a spider’s web, I got stuck in their web. I won’t let that happen to you. I learned it the hard way.”

Sheila smiled at Lori gratefully. “Are there any nice kids here other than you?” Sheila asked.

“Well, yeah, sure. There’s Kieran”—she pointed at a red-haired boy in the corner—“, who is quiet but very polite, and then there’s Josie, Lucy, Carrie, Maria, and don’t forget Ashy…”

“Who’s Ashy?” Sheila asked. “I’ve never heard of a name like that.”

“Well, Perry and Iona prefer to call her ‘Mouse’, because she’s so small and cute. She’s 10 years old, but she could pass for maybe 2nd grade. She’s over there, by Kieran.”

Sheila turned her head and saw Ashy. She was small and mouse-like! She was very skinny with brown shoulder-length hair and big brown eyes.

“I try to protect her as much as I can,” Lori whispered, “and ya know, keep her away from Perry and Iona. They really love tormenting Ashy, I’ll tell you. They think of it as a sport. ‘Tormenting Mouse’, 1 touchdown, that type of thing.”

“And then there’s Rose. Poor, poor Rosie.” Lori pointed at a girl who was strikingly beautiful, with shiny dark hair, average height, and a pale smooth face. “They call her ‘The Useless Drug’. She’s everyone’s drug, I mean, look at her, she’s so pretty. But she’s useless—not great in the nook, and she never says a word. So pretty but useless.” Lori sighed. “She should enter a beauty pageant. She’d be useful there. But of course, she can’t. She’s stuck in an orphanage.”

Just then, the tiny door opened again. All the orphans turned to stare. There was the red-haired officer again, except this time, he was holding a bundled baby.

Sheila couldn’t see the baby’s face, though.

“This…baby’s…parents…died…of…sickness…spreading…quickly…so…kids,…take…care…of…her…okay? There…is…a…cot…in…the…closet.”

The officer handed the baby to Lori, since she was known for her gentleness and good ways.

The officer saluted the orphans with one finger and then left.

“Could you go to that closet over there and get the cot out for me?” Lori asked of Sheila.

“Sure.”

Sheila ran to the closet and pulled out a tiny cot with yellow sheets. She brought it over to Lori and her bed, and set it down between her’s and Lori’s beds.

“Perfect. Thank you,” Lori said, who still held the baby in her arms. Now, for the first time, Sheila saw the baby’s face. She felt as if a strong wind had just knocked her over. The baby wasn’t just beautiful. She was almost frightingly beautiful. She was amazingly beautiful—so beautiful it was hard for Sheila to contain herself. Sheila wouldn’t have imagined such a beautiful human being existed. This baby was more beautiful than Rose by far. Sheila hoped that by raising this pretty baby very well with Lori, that this baby wouldn’t turn out like a “useless drug” like Rose.

Chapter 3

 Playing in the mud

With one look at this baby, Sheila knew this baby was not one that you would want to drop on her head. Sheila knew this baby was precious—she would not drop it anytime, anywhere.

The baby was an angel. Sheila felt overwhelmed as she watched Lori stroke it.

“Hey Lori, do you think we should…dress her?”

“Ummm…” Lori unwrapped the baby carefully from the bundle. The baby was wearing a dirty striped outfit. “Yeah, we should. But where do we get baby clothes?”

“I have no idea. Maybe, if there was a cot in the closet, there’s baby clothes too…? I don’t know. I’ll go check.”

“Thanks, Sheila.”

Sheila ran to the closet once again and opened the musty door. She searched around in the closet for baby clothes—and she couldn’t find any, until she noticed a grey bin in the corner. She picked it up and lo, and behold, there were baby clothes!

Sheila brought them to Lori and said, “For some odd but miraculous reason, yes, here are some baby clothes!”

“Thank you.”

Sheila noticed that Lori had all of a sudden grown very serious, not laughing or cracking jokes.

Lori picked a clean purple shirt and baggy pants for the baby and slipped them on. “Ah, there we go,” she said.

“Hey…Lori? Are you okay? You just seem more…serious.”

“I’m fine!” Lori immediately said sharply and defensively. She almost yelled.

“O-ok, sorry, just checking!” Sheila was taken aback. What was wrong with Lori?

                                                   ***

Later that night, after supper in the huge dining room, Lori and Sheila and the baby returned to their beds. Lori tapped on Sheila and said, “Sheila, I’m so sorry I yelled at you today.”

“It’s fine, Lori. I was just worried about you. I mean…are you ok? What’s going on?”

Lori looked around her, checking that no one was listening. Then she leaned forward towards Sheila and whispered, “Well, Sheila, see, I’m a little disoriented by this baby. Because…she reminds me of someone I can’t quite place. Like is she my long-lost sister or what?”

Sheila laughed, but then grew serious. “I don’t know, Lori…you mean like she gives you a strong feeling of déjà vu, or what?”

“No…not déjà vu, but like she reminds me strongly of someone…someone I honestly can’t place.”

All of a sudden, the door opened and instead of the uniformed man standing there, there was a woman around 40 wearing an ugly blue pinstripe suit holding an umbrella. She had dark hair pulled into a tight, tight bun.

“Hullo,” she said, her lips set in an annoyed manner.

“Hi,” the orphanage kids churped back.

“My name is Rhonda Bundly and I am here to talk to someone…if I recall it correctly, her name was Lori?”

Lori’s hand shot up. “Oh, that’s me.”

“Lori, come into the hall with me, please,” Rhonda ordered her.

Lori shot Sheila a I have no idea what this is about look.

Since Lori was gone, Sheila picked up the baby. Then she realized that she and Lori had just been calling her ‘The Baby’. If the uniformed man didn’t give her a name, well then, they should!

Sheila stared at the angelic baby’s face and thought of names that would suit her. Different names swarmed around in her head.

Jenna Melody Sherrie Josie Calada Quinn Wanita Caroline but none of them suited her quite perfectly.

More came to her:

Rachel Lily Onna Anna Zia

Then all of a sudden it came to her. Annabell. The perfect, beautiful baby’s name just HAD to be Annabell. It suited her perfectly. Sheila hoped Lori would approve.

Just then Lori came back.

“What happened?” Sheila demanded eagerly.

“Well, so…she pulled me into the hallway in her ugly pinstripe suit and told me she used to know my mom…whose name was Diana Sheron. She said she was very fond of my mom and she wanted to adopt me.”

Sheila gulped. “Adopt you?”

Lori nodded sadly.

“Are you going to…accept?”

“Well, Sheila, I can’t…I don’t want to leave you or The Baby.”

Sheila decided to save the ‘Annabell’ discussion for later. This was more important.

“I know…I don’t want you to leave either. Lori”—she leaned over to whisper—“Rhonda doesn’t seem too friendly.”

“Yeah, I know,” Lori whispered back. “Maybe I shouldn’t accept. But she said she was friends with my mom…maybe she’s nicer than she looks.”

Sheila burst into tears. “Lori, please don’t leave!”

Lori hugged Sheila. “It’s for the best.”

Then she hugged Annabell. “Goodbye, sweet baby,” she whispered.

And then, hand in hand with Rhonda, Lori left Sweethunroll Orphanage forever.

                                                 ***

Sheila stroked Annabell’s wispy hair. “I guess it’s just you and me now,” she whispered to Annabell.

She was amazed at how fast it had all happened. She still couldn’t quite believe it. Lori was gone. Gone forever.

Then, the door opened and the red-haired uniformed man stepped inside the orphans’ bedroom. He saluted and said, “Kids…you…are…allowed…to…go…outside…today…but…not…farther…than…10…feet…from…the…building.”

He left.

The kids cheered and waved their fists in the air. Sheila just sighed. “Well, Annabell, wanna go outside?”

Annabell gurgled and stared with wide eyes at her.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Sheila said, and, following Iona and Perry out the door along with the other orphans, scooped up Annabell.

Once everyone was outside, Iona said, “Poo! It’s raining! And look—it’s so muddy!”

“Ugh! I bet that officer just said we can go outside because he knew it’s raining and we’re all just gonna go inside,” Perry complained.

So all the orphans filed inside except for Sheila and Annabell. “I like the rain,” Sheila muttered under her breath to Annabell. “I hope you do too.”

The rain turned to thunder and the thunder turned to lightning. Sheila ran to the orphanage door, but it was locked. LOCKED! Had Perry and Iona locked it on her? Sheila assumed so. What was she to do now?!!

Sheila started to panic.

She ran around in circles holding on to Annabell tightly, trying to avoid the lightning. It was booming and thrashing and rain was pouring now, not just drizzling like it had been before.

The Sweethunroll Orphanage was almost right on the curb, so not a very thick sidewalk next to it—so when Sheila was running, she slipped on some mud and fell face first into the busy street of honking trunks.

“Aaaah! URgghh!” Sheila screamed and sputtered as she fell. The pain that seethed through her face and body when she fell was so distracting that she didn’t get up right away.

All of a sudden Sheila heard a “You alright, darlin’?” from behind her.

She stood up to find herself in the right lane of the street, right next to a big white truck with an overweight lady sitting in it. She was talking to Sheila in Southern drawl. “Dearie me, you took quite a fall,” she added.

“Yeah…I think I’m ok now,” Sheila told her uncertainly.

“Playin’ in the mud, eh?”

“Well, sorta. I was running back and forth and—”

Sheila stopped midstence and rembered ANNABELL! Sheila screamed: “ANNABELL! NOOO!” Then she started muttering in a panicky state, “I must have dropped her…no…she’s probably dead…run over…this is all my fault…”

“Oh, dearie, don’t you worry your pretty little mind! People throw rocks and stones, but they don’t run over pretty little babies. I got ‘er right ‘ere.”

Sheila breathed a huge sigh of relief. “Thank you…thank you!”

“I got out of my truck to retrieve ‘er…and then I saw you, who I assumed was ‘arryin’ the baby. You a …er…teen pregnant?”

Sheila laughed. “Oh no, of course not! The baby was delivered to this orphanage”—Sheila pointed at the orphanage behind her—“and so I’m on duty to take care of her. I like her.”

“Well…anyway…’ere she is.” The truck driver handed Sheila the precious little baby, who had a bunch of bruises all over her face and a surprisingly big scar in her forehead. “I’m afraid that baby of ‘ours took quite a fall—but she survived. I think she got a little souvenir that she’ll have her whole life”—she gestured at the scar—“but, she’ll be fine. I think she sprained her ankle, though. You can climb in my truck, if you trust me. Up to you. I could get you young ‘uns to the nearest hospital.”

“Oh, well…thanks! I trust you.”

“Well, glad ya do. I promise you, I’m not a kidnapper or nothin’.”

 


Comments

Ann Daniels
06/22/2013 11:03am

Again, I loved some of your descriptive expressions such as "her laughter was like a tinkling bell", "the girl's voice was calm and rich", she was like "a bug stuck in a spider's web". The description of the orphanage reminds me of "Ann of Green Gables" and the schools described in the Bronte biographies...stark and cold!

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